The May minicamp is in its first day. He has cut down on his running until he can clear up a back injury, a memento of a foolish burst of energy a few years ago, when he competed in three marathons and a half marathon in five weeks. The phone is ringing in his office, and a couple of dozen pink callback slips are on his desk. He carries on a conversation with the caller and a visitor at the same time, a talent his wife, Christine, says often reaches ridiculous extremes.
"This is Bobby," she says. "He's on the phone doing a radio interview, and at the same time he's watching a documentary on TV and skimming through a magazine. Occasionally he'll start a conversation with me. The way you see him in the office is the way he always is."
The phone rings again in Beathard's office. An NFL scout wants to know about a tight end. "The problem is that when he's on the move and has to block, he can't break down because he's so stiff," says Beathard. "He turns his head. Down-field he has to throttle down to make a cut. You have to worry about his hands, and he's not a big-time blocker. He's no better than what you've got."
After hanging up, Beathard says to his visitor, "Yeah, we'll trade information—with the guys who return the favor. Some people, like George Young of the Giants and Dick Steinberg of the Patriots, guys I've known for a long time, well, I'm on the phone with them a lot. Some teams hardly at all. Some teams, like Dallas, never. I don't discourage our scouts from talking to other scouts. I guess some organizations do. You never know who's telling the truth."
Bill Devaney, who at 33 is Beathard's youngest scout, comes in for some granola. Beathard does not take a lunch break. He simply grabs whatever is closest, a banana, a peach, some granola. That's breakfast, too, and sometimes dinner when he's working late. "Christine makes it," says Beathard. "She's a granola genius. Let's see, there's oat flakes, soy flakes, sesame and sunflower seeds, bulgur, almonds, raisins, apples, dried peaches, cloves and cinnamon. Then she bakes it. She's getting her degree in creative writing from George Mason University. She can stay up all night studying and still find time to bake 10 loaves of whole-grain bread."
The phone again. "Hey, Jerry, I'll be happy to, if you send me some of the muffins from Ovens of Brittany." The place is in Madison, Wis. Beathard selects his hotels on the road for their proximity to health-food shops and running trails. In Eugene, Ore., he prefers the Thunderbird ("Near the Prefontaine track by the McKenzie River," he says); in Austin, Texas, the Crest ("You go right out the back door, and you're on a trail you can run on for miles by a lake or a river"); in Columbia, Mo., the Campus Inn ("Terrific old country roads, and hills"). The worst is the Newark Airport Marriott, where the Skins stay when they play the New York Giants at the Meadow-lands. "I just run around the parking lot and down to the North Terminal and back," says Beathard.
A check of the clock. Time to go watch the morning workout. Beathard is spotted by a coterie of TV people with minicams, reporters with notebooks and radio guys with mikes. They know there is no better interview. His candor is sometimes disarming. "Why didn't you pick up that guy when he became available?" someone asks.
Beathard looks the questioner full in the face. "Because he's terrible," he says. Beathard assumes the remark will not be quoted verbatim. He tries to help any writer covering his team, but he assumes the person has the brains to protect him on potentially damaging comments—or at least to ask if the quote can be used. Those are the rules. When they're broken, Beathard ceases being a source.
He stares at the practice field, watching Todd Krumm, a free-agent safety from Michigan State. He has a special interest in Krumm, who was first coveted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Beathard's acquisition of Krumm reminds him of the old AFL-NFL wars, when Beathard broke in as a scout with the Kansas City Chiefs and part of his assignment was to keep talent away from the NFL. Last spring the Buccaneers put Krumm up in a hotel and had the phone shut down to any NFL callers. Beathard assigned one of his scouts, George Saimes, the job of getting through. Saimes made contact, and the Redskins got Krumm.
"Bobby drove me over [to Redskin Park) from the airport," says Krumm. "He had a jogging suit on and a bike in the back seat. He wasn't a general manager, just Bobby. The way he treated me was real positive. There was no pressure to sign. He introduced me to everyone, the scouting staff, the coaching staff, the upper echelons. At Tampa Bay there was constant pressure to sign."